Return of US airstrikes, big relief in Al-Shabaab war in Somalia

The US military has conducted at least 25 air strikes in Somalia this year [Isaac Brekken/Getty]

MOGADISHU, Somalia - For the first time in 2022, the US Africa Command returned with a bang in Somalia, waging the first-ever airstrike in the troubled Horn of Africa nation, which targeted Al-Shabaab militants who control huge swathes of rural central and southern Somalia.

For decades, the US has been a partner of Somalia in the fight against terrorism but Washington chose to withdraw her troops instead in 2021 following an order by former President Donald Trump, despite the resistance by both government and opposition politicians.

The troops were redeployed to Kenya and Djibouti but have been monitoring the situation in Somalia. A report compiled by the US Africa Command shows that the team carried out 72 airstrikes in 2020 compared to 10 in 2021, a trend that partly allowed local troops to struggle against Al-Shabaab.

On Wednesday, the Command confirmed the first-ever airstrike in almost seven months, which comes at the time the country is conducting an election. The airstrike, US Africa Command confirmed, targeted Al-Shabaab in Dububle after "they attacked partner forces" on Tuesday.

U.S. forces are authorized to conduct strikes in support of combatant commander-designated partner forces under the 2001 Authorization of Use for Military Force. This also applied to anywhere in the world where there is a threat.

While initial assessment showed no civilian was injured or killed in the exercise, Somali National Army [SNA] Chief Gen. Odowaa Yusuf Rageh noted that over 60 Al-Shabaab militants were killed and their main tax offices destroyed.

"The Federal Government of Somalia and U.S. Africa Command forces take great measures to prevent civilian casualties. These efforts contrast with the indiscriminate attacks that al-Shabaab regularly conducts against the civilian population," the command said.

"The Federal Government of Somalia and the U.S. remain committed to fighting al-Shabaab to prevent the deaths of innocent civilians. Violent extremist organizations like al-Shabaab present long-term threats to the U.S. and regional interests."

For the last week, the country has witnessed several terror attacks, further exposing its vulnerability to the militants in absence of allied partners. In Beletwyene, close to 15 people died when the militants targeted a tea shop with four others also dying in Bossaso.

Early this week, a convoy of Puntland President Said Abdullahi Deni was also targeted leaving two soldiers dead while far away in Jubaland, a renowned Islamic scholar Sheikh Abdinasir was killed in Jubaland after an IED was implanted in his vehicle.

There have been concerns that the militants are plotting to disrupt ongoing elections in the country. African Union Special Envoy to Somalia Ambassador Fransisco Madeira told the UN Security Council that "if the situation is not prevented, the country risks losing the war to the militants".

African Union has agreed to reconfigure her mission in Somalia had reached a deal with the federal government of Somalia just a few months before the expiry of AMISOM's mandate. There were reports that US President Joe Biden wants to reinstate the troops to Somalia but the decision is yet conclusive.

For now, the US Africa Command continues to operate mainly from Djibouti and Kenya but there are a few soldiers training the Danab Special Forces. Danab Special Forces are usually involved in the operations where the US army conducts airstrikes.


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